#182 gone but not forgotten

Higher education has a wonderful tradition for retiring faculty — if they have served with distinction for a considerable length of time, they are bestowed the title of “emeritus”.  Mostly this means that they are able to continue using their title (as in professor emeritus), but it also garners them invitations to some all-campus events and keeps them in the communication loop.  

I believe all organizations would be well-served to treat departing staff members — even if they are not retiring — with sort of an emeritus standing.  One of the signs of a healthy culture is how the organization treats people who have left.  If you wave goodbye and don’t talk to your ex-staff again, you are losing a golden opportunity for them to continue in an ambassador role for you. If they were great employees, with a little effort you can turn them into great ex-employees. They know you well and presumably were a cheerleader for your brand when they were here; why let it stop?

With the holiday season approaching, think about reaching out to your former employees with a greeting or invitation to a social event. Invite them back to have lunch with former colleagues every now and then.  Send them a newsletter or copy of existing publication to share your good news.  Develop an email distribution list of former employees so that you can keep them abreast of major developments.  Keep them on your fund-raising solicitation list!    Send along one of those promotional products every now and then (see #168).  Use them as a resource on occasion.  Help them connect with other former staff.

There are many things you can do after you say goodbye to a staff member.  Just make sure that something is on the list!

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com


#181 parallel lessons

I recently facilitated a session on being a catalyst for change and I started the workshop with cornstarch.

I asked volunteers to come forward and attempt to mix cornstarch and water in a cup so that it reached a consistency that would allow a spoon to be inserted into it and to be turned upside down.

There are many lessons to be learned from this exercise and parallels to change efforts:
> More people want to watch than want to volunteer to initiate/participate in the change;
> Change is messy;
> There is no recipe or set formula for making the mixture — or for creating change.  You need to experiment;
> And you need to keep at it.  Persistence is more valuable than expecting instant success
> Sometimes you need less of an element than you thought you would — a little can go a long way;
> If you try to push the spoon in slowly (aka create change slowly) there is less resistance and it is easier to accomplish than if you try to push it in quickly;
> Sometimes your efforts are a failure;
> We can learn from each other.  We get smarter as a group as our efforts progress;
> Two different entities can create something new. The exercise involves using something you have seen often, but never looked at it this way or considered it for this purpose;
> It helps to know your purpose in the beginning;
> It can be fun — especially in the end when it works!

You may consider conducting this experiment with your group as you start your next change effort.  Lots of lessons from an unlikely (and cheap!) source of inspiration.

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com


(Original concept from Tracy Knofla)




#180 not guilty

My advice from being called twice to serve on jury duty:  if you have to be on the jury, be the foreman.  

If I am going to spend my time at the trial and deliberation, I want to see a productive outcome (verdict) as a result.  So if I have to be there, I’m going to step up and lead the discussion to help us stay on topic.

The same principle applies to meetings outside the legal arena.  If you have to be at a meeting, act like the foreman.  Take an active role in the discussion to frame the issue, bring out the various views, point out the commonalities and move the group toward action.  The foreman is a facilitator, not dictator, and it is a good model to follow.  

You don’t need to hold an official position of power to help move the meeting along.  If you have been convened with the purpose of deciding, step up to the role.  Whether your goal is group consensus or majority rule, you can help drive the discussion to facilitate action.  

Don’t just sit there and be guilty of leaving the verdict of the meeting in someone else’s hands.

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com


#179 finger art

There is nothing like nail polish to make me feel old.  For my whole life I have worn pinks, reds or French (another variation on pink only with white tips), mostly because that was all that was available.  And never in my life have all 10 nails been anything but the same color.  I am so dated!

Today, nail polish is available in more shades than paint.  It comes in glitter, “cracked”, neon and swirl.  If that isn’t enough, peel on nail coverings are available in every print imaginable:  leopard, striped, holiday, pictures of the Jonas Brothers and Twilight icons.  If you name it, I am sure it is available for your fingertips.

And if all that choice doesn’t satisfy you, the trend lately seems to be painting different fingers in different colors.  Or four of one color and the fifth in a totally different shade on the same hand.  When screenwriter Zoe Lister-Jones appeared in a Time* feature, she had all five fingers on her hand with a different pattern.  Who has time for this?

I think nail polish is a symbol for today’s consumer.  People want to personalize every product and have the flexibility to express their individualism in ways not previously considered. 

Are you making your customers or clients wear only red and pink — because that is what you successfully offered for decades, or have you come to infuse teal and Disney princesses into your offerings?  One look at Seventeen’s Nail Hall of Fame (www.seventeen.com/beauty/celebrity/crazy-nails) and you’ll know that the expectations are more than they used to be.

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com



*June 11, 2012

#178 the long term

I have been following with interest the experiment that is currently underway at J. C. Penney.  Ron Johnson was hired as CEO a year ago in hopes that he could work his retail magic on the dated, declining department store.  

If you don’t know Johnson by name, surely you have seen the results of his efforts.  He is responsible for introducing designer brands at Target (even though the pundits predicted high end goods at a discount retailer would fail), and designing profitable Apple retail stores (another idea many thought wouldn’t work).  So can he do it again at JCP?

Right now, the experiment is not going so well.  The company has experienced three consecutive quarters of major losses ($260 million last period), but Johnson remains optimistic that his vision will succeed.  He has focused first on a new pricing model, and now is in the business of revamping the layout of all the stores and providing different lines of merchandise.  Their vibrant new advertising was enough to get me inside for the first time in a decade, and it is clear that something is a buzz. 

Johnson is quoted as saying “Lots of people think we’re crazy.  But that’s what it takes to get ahead.”  I hope that the board gives Johnson enough time for his efforts to have a chance.  Revitalizing all of the classic four marketing elements (product, price, place and promotion) is not a short-term fix.  Hopefully there was a realistic time frame agreed upon when he took the job.

I am not a regular JCP shopper and may never be.  But I applaud Johnson’s willingness to tackle another risky venture instead of resting on his Target and Apple laurels.  He almost certainly did not need to gamble on Penney and face the public ridicule when results weren’t instantaneous.  Apparently the personal satisfaction from doing something difficult provides enough thrill to risk the daunting short-term consequences.

Let him be a model for you to tackle the hard stuff and work toward transformation in the long term, even if people snicker in the process.

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com



(J.C. Penney’s CEO taking another gamble by Anne D’Innocenzio Associated Press in the Dubuque Telegraph Herald 11/15/12 p.4B)


#177 at last

I was listening to Pandora radio when they had an interview with Etta James.  “Every time someone gets married,” she said, “they say sing ‘At Last’.”

For fifty years, Etta James = At Last.  It has been her signature song since the album was released in 1960.

What is your signature action?  Maybe it’s not belting out a certain song at weddings, but everyone has a special talent for something.  Figure out what yours is and be conscious about sharing it.

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com


#176 expand your palette

When Binney and Smith introduced Crayola crayons in 1903, there were 8 colors available, thus the iconic 8-pack box.  Today, there are 120 color options.

There are about as many packaging options as well.  A recent trip to Target featured an entire section of 8-pack crayons — over 30 in all — now cleverly marketed with child-appealing names.  Instead of buying the 64-pack (which used to be the ultimate thrill), consumers today are encouraged to customize their colors by purchasing multiple 8-packs (@ .99 each) and putting them in the metal tin (@ $2.99) that looks like a Crayola box.

These “modern” 8-packs come with names such as:  “Born to Rock”, “Surfin’ Safari”, “Dinosaur Roar”, “Pink Princess”, “Cupcake My Day”, “Over the Rainbow” and “Fruit-opia”.  But what colors are inside?  Just various combinations of the same 120 colors which are available (for a lot less money) in the normal 64 pack.

The Crayola display causes me to have two thoughts as it relates to organizational life —
> What are you doing that you could package differently and re-purpose?  Could you offer essentially the same services in a different way to create new interest and markets? How does what you name something allow it to be perceived as new and fresh?  (If you have any doubt whether this matters, check out the crayon aisle next time you’re at a Target.)
> People want to have choice.  If they are willing to pay extra to create their own box of crayons, what opportunity does this create for your organization?  Can you repackage some services and charge more for them by allowing customers to package a la carte?

Crayola 8-packs ain’t what they used to be.  Is your organization still only working with black, red and blue or have you moved on to provide inch worm, jazzberry jam, mango tango and wild blue yonder (the newest Crayola colors)?  It’s up to you to keep your palette appealing.

— beth triplett
leadershipdots.blogspot.com
@leadershipdots
leadershipdots@gmail.com

(Crayola crayon color chronology at www2.crayola.com/colorcensus/history/chronology.cfm)